When you own a house the list of things you “want” to do never really ends. I have such a list. It includes such fun items as adding some insulation under the cantilever outside, fixing some small mortar issues, parging the outside block foundation, putting fresh shellac on the floors, and the topic of today’s post: caulking various places (primarily windows) around the interior.
Caulking is one of those jobs that always looks real easy, but if you look at caulking done by professionals and then the stuff you (or your parents when you were a kid, as in my case) did, it just doesn’t look as nice with the caulk sort of smeared all over. The reason? There is a secret to caulking professionally. What is that secret? Masking tape!
Most windows in the house are really great Anderson windows. They are original with a piggyback storm. The downstairs windows, however, were double hung windows with a separate storm window that were always kind of drafty. In 2008, my Grandmother had them replaced with new vinyl ones. I’m not a huge fan of vinyl windows (wood would have been much better), but these are good windows overall.
The catch here is that while she had the windows replaced, the
clowns amateurs who did the work simply yanked out the old windows and slammed in the new ones. They did not go through and air seal around the frame, leaving a window that if you stood next to it in the winter, literally poured cold air from the sides. Last winter I pulled the interior trim off and put spray foam insulation around the frame to seal it, but the last step still remained: caulking where the window itself meets the frame. This weekend I got ambitious and took care of that project, with very good results.
The masking tape trick is one I picked up watching one of my clients at work install custom furniture. When they would bring the furniture in and put it against a wall there would be a gap. To bridge the gap, they would mask off both sides of the joint (the desktop and the wall) and run a bead of caulk right in the joint and immediately peel off the tape while the caulk is still wet. The result? A really nice, really clean looking caulk joint only where you want it and no where else.
The tools needed for this project are pretty basic: a caulk gun is best (and cheap), a cartridge of latex caulk (I used tan for this job), a bowl of water and a glove (nitrile works well) to make cleanup easier and some paper towels. I’m very pleased with the results – it looks professional. I ended up caulking other joints around the house too – a small gap where the stairs meet the upstairs wall, the space under the front door sill, etc. Here are annotated shots of each step for one of the windows: